East China's Zhejiang Province has rolled out plans to scrap its household registration restrictions within the province, except for its capital city of Hangzhou, according to a recent action plan issued by the provincial government.
The plan aims to encourage rural migrants to relocate to the urban areas, helping the migrant population to settle down more easily.
The new plan pledged more support for rural migrants to cities, providing skill training for workers and schools for kids who relocate with parents. A series of measures were also announced to help the migrant workers to better cope with their city lives.
It is part of Zhejiang's efforts to achieve "common prosperity," and will take effect on July 22 and last for five years.
A million are expected to participate in the vocational training sessions provided by the province by 2027.
The province will also "strongly push" the use of a digital residential card system so social services can be based on information online, according to the plan. Users will be able to apply for the digital card via internet.
Zhejiang, one of China's most economically vibrant regions, aims to lift the proportion of its urban population from 73.4 percent in 2022 to 76 percent by 2027. The increasing rate of income for new migrants from rural areas should be at roughly the same pace than the rest of urban residents, said the plan.
The household registration system in China, known as Hukou, determines who has access to local social amenities including healthcare, education and employment. As a growing number of people migrate from one place to another, the household registration system can limit them having access to local social services where they currently live, especially for migrant workers from rural areas seeking jobs in the cities.
A stepping stone for deeper integration
With plenty of job opportunities, cities in Zhejiang have attracted a labor force from both its rural regions and other provinces.
According to the seventh national census, the migrant population in Zhejiang ranked second in China. In 2020, the migrant population of Zhejiang surpassed 27.9 million, with two out of every five permanent residents in the province being migrant workers. In recent years, cities in Zhejiang have been improving migrant workers access to urban public services by relaxing residency curbs.
Lan Jianping, vice president of the Zhejiang Development and Planning Institute, pointed out that rural residents who choose to settle in the province's urban area will maintain their rights attached to their rural household registration, including rights to contract and manage farming land, use homestead land, and get collective income distribution.
Lan said the plan also prepares Zhejiang for further integration of the Yangtze River Delta, which covers Shanghai and its neighboring provinces of Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Anhui. The region includes some of the most desirable cities in which to live and work in China.
In 2019, China's National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) called on cities with populations under three million to remove household registration restrictions. Since then, the task of easing residency curbs has been featured in the NDRC's annual plans to promote urbanization and integrated urban and rural development.
With the potential of attracting talent and improving mobility, many provinces across China, such as Shandong, Jiangxi, Hubei and Heilongjiang, have already lifted restrictions on household registration in recent years.